Penny Tai’s Route to Happiness

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Many of you might remember her as the sweet voice behind “The Love You Want” (《你要的爱》), the ending theme song of immensely popular idol drama “Meteor Garden” back in 2001.

Since then, Penny Tai has released ten more self-penned albums and picked up a “Best Composer” award from the Taiwan’s Golden Melody in 2005 for her song “Love Crazy” (《爱疯了》). In between, the talented Malaysian born singer-songwriter also found time for a rock album with her band “Buddha Jump” and experimented with photography as well as directing music videos. For the latter, the 35-year-old received nomination nods at the Golden Melody for the music videos she produced for singers like Khalil Fong.

And now, the free-spirited individual has added a new title to her belt.

Penny is now boss of her own label “妮乐佛”, which released her latest album titled “Unexpected” (《纯属意外》). The album has since received rave reviews from music critics. The two-year old creative label, which means “Never Fall” in English, saw Penny investing her savings of nearly TWD $8,000,000 (approx SGD$340,000).

On using up all her savings, Penny who was in Singapore last weekend for a promotional tour, has no regrets. “I’m interested in anything that can record down moments in life. I don’t’ have big plans, I am in fact the boss as well as my own subordinate. The money was originally set aside for a house but in the end I used it to make music. It’s something natural for me because this money is given to me by music, I am merely giving it back now. With or without, my life goes on. Many might think I’m silly or I have guts for splurging such a large sum of money, but to me it is something extra so I don’t have to be bothered by the fact that it’s now all gone.”

At the launch of “Unexpected” earlier in May, the petite singer made a most unexpected announcement. Calling this new album as her “graduation piece”, Penny will be taking a hiatus after all promotional activities end early next year. On rumors saying that she will officially retire from showbiz, Penny cleared up the air by saying, “I never said anything about retiring. I just think it’s about time I step outside of this identity and try other things. But without a record company pressurizing me, I really don’t know when my next material will be. Neither do I have plans for what I’ll be doing. What I’m certain about is, I’m definitely going home to my parents. They have allowed me to do what I want for too long, its time I spend time with them.”

But it’s not all bad news for Penny’s supporters. Singapore fans can look forward to a music showcase scheduled for the end of this year. This will be Penny’s first performance in Singapore in nearly 8 years and according to the singer, it will be an entirely different song list from her previous gigs!

W&T: It’s been 8 years since you last promoted your album in Singapore. We feel that you seem a lot happier now, be it in person or musically.
Penny: Yes, I am much more optimistic now. I used to be really demanding on myself but I’ve since learnt to slow down after I was ill a few years back. I rarely get angry nowadays and I love the state I’m in.
Music wise, I used to get inspiration from personal experiences, especially sad ones. So it was really painful, cos’ every time I write something, I am stabbing at an old wound. But now I just want to write heart-warming songs that doesn’t center upon unrequited love. Like the English songs I love, they are usually happy and heartwarming, so why can’t Mandarin ballads be the same?
Of course, my life is my material for music. As you all know, my relationship is very stable now, we rarely quarrel so my emotional songs are mainly centred upon my friends’ bad experiences now.

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Penny Tai and her Taiwanese boyfriend. They have been dating for four years.

W&T: Will marriage be on your cards during your long hiatus?
Penny: Marriage is definitely something that I will eventually get about doing, but not now. Being married is not difficult but it’s the getting married part that daunts me. I think to a certain extent, I have a panic disorder for wedding planning (laughs). It requires a lot of effort, planning and manpower and I guess it’s just not something I think I can handle as of now. If I weren’t a singer, perhaps things would be easier because my boyfriend and I are very much low-profile people.

W&T: What’s your ideal wedding like?
Penny: Something unconventional, but our parents have their preferences as well so that’s the difficult part (laughs). If it wasn’t this, we would have just gone backpacking to celebrate. Sometimes I think why can’t I have an Indian-styled wedding? Or why must I necessarily be in a gown? You know, who said there must be a certain procedure to how I want my wedding to be.
But of course, my friends have been egging me to get married because they are looking forward to my wedding party. They know I can get pretty crazy so that’s another stress, I want to come up with something that pleases everyone. Sounds difficult right? Maybe I should just engage the help of a wedding planner (laughs)!

W&T: Any thoughts about composing your own wedding song?
Penny: Maybe not. But since my theme is unusual, I was thinking of using something special, like the hokkien song “爱拼才会赢”! Now, that’s something fun!